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2015 Hugo picks: Novels

This post is of course too late to influence voting (life intervened, though I did vote (and who am I kidding about influence?)), but these are my rankings.

5. Skin Game by Jim Butcher
Harry Dresden, put-upon wizard extraordinaire, reluctantly joins a gang of otherworldly villains in a high-stakes plot.
I don't read a lot of urban dark fantasy/action/adventure, but I feel like I've read enough to not be overly impressed with this. The attempts at witty repartee fall sadly flat, and the narrator's love of the word "freaking" started grating pretty quick. The fact that it's the fifteenth (!) installment in a series means it doesn't bother much with developing (or even establishing) the characters, which didn't improve my attitude. (I didn't read the whole thing; only the 86 pages in the Hugo packet.)

4. The Dark Between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson (novel, 2014, Hugo nom)
A space opera in which strange and dangerous things start appearing in the Spiral Arm.
I'm a bit surprised I read the whole thing. It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't real great, either. It was not particularly original, and the characters' penchant for 20th-century clich├ęs got tiresome. Having so many characters is ambitious, but it didn't work for me. All the characters, especially the less likable ones, seemed cardboard, and the book lacked the "soul" that a solid sympathetic character provides. Oh, and the Shana Rei make zero physical sense.

3. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (novel, 2014, Hugo nom)
Isolated half-goblin Maia must learn quickly when he unexpectedly becomes emperor of Elfland upon the death of his father and brothers.
It seemed pretty standard court-intrigue fare, with subtle and not-so-subtle social justice themes added in. Maia was a good character, if a bit of nebbish (though he certainly grows over the course of the story), and the culture is interesting and lovingly detailed. However, the interminable meetings, audiences, social engagements, etc. often seemed almost as oppressive to me as they did to Maia. His world was an interesting place to visit, but I don't think I'd want to go back.

2. Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
Breq, now a Fleet Captain, attempts to maintain stability in the system near Athoek Station as a civil war begins to rage.
The rumors are true; it's not as good as the first installment. However, the MC and her culture are so well constructed, so strange, and yet so believable that I did still enjoy the experience. I'm reminded of the Steve Jobs quip that being a pirate is more fun than joining the navy. Breq has literally gone from being a pirate in the first book to being a very senior naval officer in the second. I'm left hoping the third installment will, as a wise man once said, "kick out the style and bring back the jam."

1. The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu, Ken Liu trans. (novel, 2014, Hugo nom)
Science starts going strange, and governments worldwide wonder why.
This type of hard SF is not often seen in the Anglosphere these days, and that's a shame. This book has fascinating scientific ideas supported by a human story. I really liked it. The motivations of some of the characters didn't quite make sense to me, but on the other hand people can be pretty crazy sometimes, and that is definitely a theme of the book (I was a bit surprised at how forthrightly it discusses the Cultural Revolution).

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